Outdoor living spaces are more important than ever. Most folks building new homes want a deck, porch and/or patio where they can entertain or just relax as a family.
This week we'll go over the pros and cons of these different deck, patio and porch materials: Natural Stone, Concrete Pavers, Poured Concrete, Tile, Brick, Wood Composite, and Wood. When choosing the materials for the construction of your porch, deck or patio, the style of your home and your personal preference should definitely be considered. A traditional home would look nice with a brick patio, for example, whereas a more contemporary house might look better with an outdoor space made of poured concrete or sleek pavers.
But, in addition to aesthetic considerations, we should also think about maintenance and the cost of different patio and deck materials. So, let’s get right to it. Starting with natural stone.
Natural stone such as slate, quartzite, bluestone, travertine and limestone can be used for the flooring of patios and sometimes for decks. The American Society of Landscape Architects recommends choosing a stone that’s native to your region because it will be stable in your climate and it will blend in seamlessly with your environment.
Natural stone will last longer and hold its color better than any of the other material. And stone flooring is a good option if your patio has bends, curves or an unusual shape since stone can be cut to fit around curves and mortar can be used to fill in gaps. Although most homeowners are attracted to the look and durability of stone, it does have some disadvantages.
Stone has irregular surfaces that make walking on it challenging, especially for small children, the elderly and women in high heels. In addition, the gaps between the stone pieces are prone to weed growth. Finally, stone can be heavy and it’s usually the most expensive option.
Next let’s talk about concrete pavers, which often have a look similar to natural stone without all the expense.
Concrete pavers are made of concrete that’s denser than poured concrete. That dense concrete is compacted to form individual units that can mimic brick or natural stone. Pavers come in a variety of colors and shapes.
Since most pavers are laid as separate units, individual pavers can be replaced if damaged without significantly disturbing the rest of the patio. This ability to fairly easily remove and replace pavers is particularly advantageous for pool decking, just in case you need to get to pool pipes that lie beneath the decking material.
When set in sand, the pavers have a little bit of give, so they can withstand changes in temperature and loads. That give allows pavers to shift slightly instead of cracking.
Permeable concrete pavers are also available for ground level patios. They allow rainwater to filter through and seep back into the soil slowly instead of quickly running off the patio surface. This decreases the risk of soil erosion and decreases the risk of water flowing toward the home’s foundation.
So those are the advantages concrete pavers, let’s talk about the disadvantages.
Due to their strict geometric shapes, there are a limited number of deck patterns that can be created with pavers. Also, some concrete pavers have only surface pigments that can fade over time and when scratched can reveal the bare, unstained concrete beneath the surface pigment. Another con? The spaces between the pavers are prone to weed growth, especially if the pavers are not installed properly. And finally, those spaces between pavers can also make it difficult to walk in high heels, which is definitely not a good thing if you plan on having lots fancy outdoor parties.
Let's look at another way to use concrete to create a patio.
Poured concrete is basically a combination of cement, sand and gravel that's mixed with water and can be formed into a deck or patio of almost any shape or size. Poured concrete is a great option if you want a curved patio or deck. It is also a fairly economical option that requires little maintenance.
The drawbacks of concrete patios and decks are that the actual mixing of the concrete can be tricky, since the process must be done to exact specifications for the best results. And although almost all concrete surfaces will crack over time, improperly mixed concrete is even more prone to cracking.
Poured concrete may not be the best choice if your patio will be over plumbing or electrical lines because at lease part of the patio will need to be removed if those lines need to be repaired.
Another drawback is that most concrete will stain or get dirty over time. You can get concrete slabs power washed, but just realize that will be an extra cost down the road. Finally, concrete can have a very industrial or stark look and may not be very attractive with a more traditional house.
To warm up the usual plain, gray, smooth look of concrete, you might consider stamped or tinted concrete. The concrete can be stamped and colored to give an appearance more like bricks, pavers or stone. But don’t over expect. Stamped concrete can look nice, but it looks like stamped concrete, not genuine stone or brick. Stamping and tinting concrete will cost more than regular poured concrete, but depending on the type of treatments, it will cost less than pavers or brick.
Moving on to tile.
Ceramic or porcelain tiles can give your patio or deck a beautiful, high end look. Tiles come in a wide variety of colors and styles and many of them look just like the tiles used indoors, but make sure to use both tile and grout that are meant for exterior use. It's also important to use tiles that are relatively non-porous and slip resistant.
If you avoid porous, slippery tiles, which can allow for algae growth and falls, the main down side of tile is that there is a wide price variation and some tiles are extremely expensive, sometimes costing more than even natural stone.
Wood composite decking is made of real wood fibers and man-made plastic material. It’s also known as wood-polymer composites, wood alternatives or synthetic decking. Composite has quickly become the fastest-growing decking material for residential use. It’s weather resistant, stain resistant, and lightweight. Plus it won't splinter or rot.
Composite wood is more linear, which makes it difficult (but not impossible) to put bends and curves into your porch design. It’s possible to cut composite wood to fit rounded porch shapes, but it requires more engineering, more time and more money.
Some of the cons of composite deck material are that many brands look obviously cheap and fake. And I mean really fake. Some brands can also be slippery. Eventually the composite material will show signs of age and deterioration, especially if your deck is exposed to direct sunlight which makes composite material more likely fade. Another con is that composite tends to sag and bend more than real wood.
Finally, even though many manufacturers promise their wood composite material is maintenance free, many wood composites are prone to moss and mildew growth, requiring yearly pressure washing.
Lastly, let’s talk about the most popular, traditional deck material, wood. Real wood has natural warmth and beauty and many species are fairly inexpensive. However, wood is high maintenance, requiring regular sealing. If not maintained, wood can split, crack, change color, and rot. It is also prone to insect damage.
You can choose pressure treated wood which has preservatives added to it. This makes the wood more resistant to the elements, rot and insects. But pressure treated decking can have an unnatural color, it warps or bends, some folks dislike the fact that it has chemicals added it.
As with most of our choices for our new homes, we’ll have to make some compromises with whatever deck material we choose. No one material is the perfect choice for everyone, so weigh the pros and cons thoughtfully.
That’s all I have for you this week. If you find this type of information helpful, you can subscribe so new posts and podcasts will sent directly to your email inbox. Look for the subscribe option either to the right of, or at the bottom of this post.
Thanks for joining me this week. I hope you learned as much as I did. Come on back next week for another edition of Build Your House Yourself University -- BYHYU.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete, it’s subject to change and it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.